Saturday, June 3, 2023

Putin’s Re-Stalinization and Neo-Medievalization Combining to Make Wars Ever More Likely, Khapayeva Argues

Paul Goble

            Staunton June 1 – In Putin’s Dark Ages, a book set to be released this fall in London, St. Petersburg historian Dina Khapayeva argues that Putin’s promotion of re-Stalinization of the state and the neo-medievalization of Russian society presages more wars unless he is defeated in Ukraine and Russia undergoes a profound process of repentance.

            In an interview with the SeverReal portal about her findings, Khapayeva says that shortly after he came to power, Putin began to revive the image of Stalin as the marshal of victory for his role in World War II (

            “For Putin,” she argues, “this myth is extremely important because it is based on two ideas: the restoration of empire and Russian messianism, which, in contrast to the Stalin era, now is strongly intermixed with Orthodoxy. This is a contemporary crusade about brining the true faith and its values to Eastern Europe and the West.”

            Neo-medievalization is also important for Putin because it is a means of proposing to Russian society a social model “which is an alternative to democracy” and which justifies both repression by the state and social inequality to the point of restoring social strata of the kind Russia had earlier.

            At the same time, Khapayeva continues, “it is important to stress that Russia is not returning to the Middle Ages as today many such as Vyacheslav Inozemtsev now think. That is because it impossible to return to the past, but to use medieval allusions, models and ideas about society to create an anti-democratic future for Russia is very possible indeed.”

            Putin’s “political neo-medievalization is very similar to that of the Islamic State” in that it makes religious fanaticism into “the foundation of politics” and leads to “the militarization of public consciousness and the strengthening of the traditional slavish component” of Russian attitudes about the relations between the state and individual.

            “When they came to power, Putin and his clique hardly had any ideas about the future of the country except a desire to secure their ability to continue and expand upon their personal enrichment,” Khapayeva says. But soon they needed to legitimate themselves with sets of ideas that covered up the fact that as thieves, they had no ideology as such.

            Not surprisingly, she argues, war for them became “the only means of constantly distracting society and showing that those in power are good guys,” concerned about more than just getting rich.

            If Russia is to recover from this horror, Khapayeva says, it “must pass through a process of decolonization and give freedom to those peoples which it has oppressed over the course of many centuries” and it must disabuse everyone of the Putin regime’s view that “in Russia live only Russians, an idea that is one of the manifestations of imperial consciousness.”

            Indeed, “the only way for Russia to become a democracy passed through the disintegration of the colonial power and of course through defeat in its war with Ukraine. Russia has never recognized its historical guilt” in anything like what Germany did after 1945, a recognition that allowed Germany to become a flourishing democracy.

            Russia must go through a similar process, recognizing “its historical guilt for Stalinism, Georgia and Ukraine. It must repent. If this happens,” Khapayev suggests, “then Russia will have a chance after a certain time to become a democracy   .

            She concludes by saying that she hopes Ukraine will win because that country “is now fighting not only for its land and fellow citizens but also for the future of democracy throughout the world. If Russia is allowed to conquer Ukraine, this will mean the absolute collapse of the world order in which democracy is one of the most important political systems.”

            “I consider this war to be a monstrous crime of the Russian government,” Khapayeva says; and believe that both it and the society which supports it must be punished.

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